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Spokane medical student offers advice for her peers

A group photo of the 2023-24 first-year University of Washington medical students during their orientation session on the Gonzaga campus last month
Doug Nadvornick/Spokane Public Radio
A group photo of the 2023-24 first-year University of Washington medical students during their orientation session on the Gonzaga campus last month

Spokane’s 140 newest medical students have started down the path of becoming doctors.

They begin their journey with the symbolic ritual of receiving the white coats and stethoscopes they’ll use over the next four years.

At their White Coat ceremony last Friday, University of Washington students heard words of inspiration from a fourth-year peer, Kika Kaui. Before her talk, Kaui said she planned to remind her new colleagues to remain involved in their communities even though they’ll endure a crushing study schedule.

University of Washington fourth-year medical student Kika Kaui
Courtesy of Kika Kaui
University of Washington fourth-year medical student Kika Kaui

“When you’re that engaged and enthusiastic, you’re a lot more likely to jump in and make mistakes, so I’m going to share some sort of embarrassing stories from friends in my class so that when they do make those mistakes, they realize that they’re not alone and we all ended up fine and they’ll be fine," she said. "And then talk to them about the importance of leaning on each other for support and prioritizing improving yourself alongside becoming a doctor.”

Kaui is like many of the students whom she addressed. She took a detour between earning her undergraduate degree and medical school. She joined the Peace Corps, traveled to Morocco and taught women’s health. Then, while in med school, she took a year off to have a child. She says it’s been an enlightening journey.

“But I’ve also learned so much from my patients about how valuable health is, how valuable mental health is and how worth it it is to make sure they’re prioritizing that, both for patients, but also you and your peers," she said.

Kaui counsels students that part of maintaining that health is to find things you like to do outside of school.

“I joke that everyone should have some sort of positive vice in medical school to pull you away. I go on a lot of walks and hikes and work out and have a partner and a kid and that takes a lot of time too," she said.

Now, in addition to her clinical work, Kaui is preparing to apply for her required post-graduate residency programs for after she graduates in June. She hopes to begin training next summer to become a child psychiatrist.

One of the Northwest's most seasoned reporters is returning to his SPR roots. Doug Nadvornick will be heard frequently on KPBX and KSFC reporting on local news.